Food Safety Standards & Regulations
A global look at food safety regulations
A key requirement for food preparation businesses is to document the processes used to make or sell food ensuring it is safe to eat and keep said documents and records up to date.
Even small food handlers, such as individual restaurants, bars and cafes should have food safety management procedures based on the principles of HACCP, but adapted to the size of their business and the complexity of their food preparation processes. In some countries it is a legal requirement.
Good food hygiene ensures that food prepared for your customers is safe to eat. It prevents harmful microorganisms that cause serious food-borne illnesses such as salmonella from contaminating food.
Food hygiene authorities visit business premises to inspect them for compliance with the legal requirements for selling and distributing food. It can include taking samples for scientific analysis and inspecting records. This can result in:
In some countries, such as the UK, the government issue food hygiene ratings that are made public or even displayed on the front of the premises. This can both improve and damage a business's reputation as well as providing an added incentive to produce food of high quality.
In the US, the FDA publishes the FDA Food Code as a best practise for food hygiene. This is a voluntary guide which is adopted by local, state and federal organisations with compliance responsibilities for food service, retail food stores, or food vending operations.
The detailed legal requirements for food safety is varied slightly between countries, but in general they cover the same principles.
The regulations are also flexible to adapt to the size of a business, so that small businesses have simpler food safety standards. Food standards agencies responsible for monitoring and enforcing regulations have guides available to help companies develop food safety procedures and documentations suitable to their business.
Premises include all the buildings and rooms involved in the business. Each building should comply to the food hygiene regulations required by their government.
Food safety legislations are designed to ensure premises are clean and well maintained. These usually consist of:
The premises should provide adequate facilities for:
The design of food preparation areas must follow good food hygiene practices and processes, including protection from contamination during food preparation. Food safety legislations will have specific requirements for the food preparation area relating to the condition and design of:
Vehicles and containers used to transport food must meet the same standards of food hygiene: good condition, protection from contamination, and storage at suitable temperatures.
All equipment that comes into contact with food must be made of appropriate materials, kept in good condition, cleaned effectively, and fitted appropriately to enable correct cleaning.
Food waste must be removed from the food preparation area as soon as possible and stored in containers that are suitable for waste disposal services, can be cleaned, prevent contamination and prevent access to pests.
Waste disposal must also comply with hygiene and environmental regulations.
Water that is used as a food ingredient or comes into contact with food for cleaning, heating, steaming, cooling, and ice must be of drinking quality.
Water for fire control and heating, must be kept in an isolated system so that it cannot contaminate food and drink used for consumption.
Staff working in food handling areas need to keep good personal hygiene and be aware of practices and factors that can cause contamination of food. There may be a requirement for staff training, as with the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Personal hygiene factors include:
All raw materials and ingredients used must be safe and not contaminated with anything that would make the final product unfit for human consumption to comply to food safety regulations.
The storage, processing and distribution systems must protect food from contamination. This includes pest control, pet control and having processes and procedures that limit the multiplication of bacteria.
The temperature of food and the time taken to reach it may be specified for the various stages of preparation. This can include, for example, storage before preparation, storage and display after preparation, when food is served hot, when food is served cold after cooking, and when reheating food.
Defrosting has risks of bacterial growth and development of toxins. Some foods such as meat give off liquids when defrosting that can drip onto and contaminate other food and surfaces. It is important to follow the food safety guidelines for the control of temperature at each stage.
The materials used for packaging and wrapping must be stored in a way that prevents contamination and be suitable for coming into contact with food. The procedures for wrapping and packaging must ensure that there is no contamination of the food.
Staff handling food must be instructed or trained in food hygiene so they have an understanding of the requirements needed to ensure food delivered is fit for human consumption.